Resolution reached in Japan pay flap

Sox players get their way; source says all staff will be paid

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Globe Staff And Wire Reports / March 19, 2008

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Fans at City of Palms Park were ready for Boston's final spring training game in Florida. The Red Sox weren't.

In an extraordinary move, Boston players voted to boycott a nationally televised exhibition and Wednesday afternoon's flight to Japan for next week's season-opening series against Oakland, upset that coaches weren't going to receive the same $40,000 payments negotiated for players by their union.

A couple of hours later, all was resolved, and the Red Sox took the field one hour late for a 4-3 loss to Toronto before a crowd of 7,868. A major league source said that all staff associated with the trip will be compensated.

"The players just stepped up and they did what I think was right," Boston bench coach Brad Mills said.

According to the major league source, in the past, the coaches' compensation has come from the players' portion of the pool. This time around the coaches were eliminated from that pool.

Major League Baseball agreed to pay the managers, coaches and trainers on the trip $20,000 each from management's proceeds, a person familiar with the agreement said, speaking on condition of anonymity because details weren't announced. The Red Sox agreed to make up the difference to make the amount equal, and to pay some of the other team personnel making the trip, the person said.

"It was a misunderstanding of what agreement was reached between MLB and the MLBPA," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said. "We said we would step up and make sure a second pool was created and would seek contributions from all parties."

It had not yet between determined whether Oakland would make additional payments to its staff.

"Everyone connected with the trip will be fairly compensated," baseball spokesman Rich Levin said.

Cancellation of the March 25-26 series at the Tokyo Dome would have been a publicity nightmare for Major League Baseball, which already has had enough bad news during an offseason dominated by performance-enhancing drugs.

Managers and coaches were included in the players' pool payments for baseball's two previous season-opening trips to Japan, when the New York Mets played the Chicago Cubs in 2000 and the Yankees played Tampa Bay in 2004. But this time, the agreement between MLB and the players' association called only for payments to 30 players on each club, and left out the coaches.

"They're just as much a part of this team as anybody," said Oakland closer Huston Street, the team's player representative. "Playoff shares, coaches get an equal share. You look at previous Japan trips, coaches have gotten an equal share."

The initial vote by Boston players set off a series of calls among players from the Red Sox and Athletics, Major League Baseball, the clubs and the players' association.

"We felt we had to make a stand, and being on ESPN didn't hurt," Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell said.

Across the country in Phoenix, Athletics players also considered a boycott. They didn't take batting practice and held five team meetings before following Boston's lead and deciding to play. An Oakland split squad lost 6-1 to the Los Angeles Angels in front of 7,940 fans before leaving for Tokyo.

Lowell said $20,000 payments for the coaches would not have been acceptable given that the players were making $40,000.

"We didn't think that was correct," he said. "Giving them half of that is not equal."

Daisuke Matsuzaka, who had been scheduled to pitch for Boston, left the stadium to pitch at a game against Minnesota's Triple-A affiliate. David Aardsma started in his place. Matsuzaka is scheduled to be the opening day starter in Tokyo next week against Oakland.

Boston manager Terry Francona spoke twice Wednesday with commissioner Bud Selig about the exhibition against the Blue Jays. Toronto won 4-3 before a crowd of 7,868.

"Mr. Selig was justifiably concerned about playing the game, which I completely understand," Francona said.

Kevin Youkilis, the Red Sox player representative, said the agreement still needs to be put in writing and the compensation for coaches and staff "is not the greatest thing that we wanted for them, but it's good."

He stressed that the players felt strongly about not going to Japan without a resolution.

"The club's working on stuff and trying to get money where it needs to get," he said. "It was definitely an experience of a lifetime and it ended in a good way."

Earlier, catcher Jason Varitek said the team would not take the field or go to Japan until Major League Baseball agreed to pay the coaches and staff.

Manager Terry Francona and his players became upset after learning staff members were not going to get a stipend.

"I did not have an off day yesterday. I had the phone glued to my ear because I was promised some answers, and I haven't even received a phone call," Francona said this morning. "So I'm a little bit stuck. What I want to do this morning is get excited to play a baseball game and what I ended up doing is apologizing to the coaches and being humiliated."

The players were adamant that the payment for coaches and staff was negotiated in their agreement to play in Japan and that it had been reneged on. Lowell confirmed to the Globe that the team voted unanimously this morning not to make the scheduled trip unless the situation was rectified.

''When we voted to go to Japan, that was not a unanimous vote,'' said Lowell, "but we did what our team wanted us to do for Major League Baseball. They promised us the moon and the stars, and then when we committed, they started pulling back. It's not just the coaches, it's the staff, the trainers, a lot of people are affected by this.

"I'm so super proud of this team. When we put it to a vote it was unanimous, we're all in agreement that we're not going to put up with this.''

Major League baseball seemed to take the hit about this coaches flap all morning long, but in the overall blame pie was the Players' Association mostly at fault for originally eliminating the coaches from the pool of receipts for the Japan trip? A major league official certainly thought so and was miffed at MLB being portrayed as the bad guy.

Youkilis, who hit a three-run homer today, took the high road and said no blame should be assigned for the misunderstanding.

"The conference call [in October] was tough in and of itself," Youkilis said. "There were six or seven players on it. In the business world conference calls are not the easiest way. You hear voices and everyone's talking. We definitely knew what we were told. There was added stuff just to get us to go over there. I can't blame one person for the misunderstanding. I think the next time we know going forward that when you have these conference calls, you have to get it in writing. It's the easiest way to do stuff. One thing that will be addressed at players' union meetings now is that you have to put it in writing and be on the same page. We found out today. It's a learning process, we're moving forward and we're going to have a lot of fun over there."

Youkilis stressed the players felt strongly about not going to Japan without a resolution.

"The club's working on stuff and trying to get money where it needs to get," he said. "It was definitely an experience of a lifetime, and it ended in a good way."

Varitek said players thought it was necessary to take a stand on behalf of the coaches and staff.

"They're the basis of what takes care of us," he said.

Francona seconded that.

"We're so united. And I don't mean just the players," he said in a dugout interview with ESPN during Wednesday's game. "I mean the staff, the trainers and our players showed that and that's what this was about. It wasn't about being greedy. It was about trying to be unified."

Oakland general manager Billy Beane was happy the trip will go on and expressed desire for additional international play.

"I hope we go to Rome. I hope we go to Paris, Berlin," Beane said, wearing shorts with a logo of the English soccer team Arsenal.

Boston pitcher Curt Schilling said they learned Tuesday the deal was not what the players and coaches thought they'd agreed to with baseball.

"I think everyone was kind of caught off guard," he said.

Red Sox first base coach Luis Alicea said he appreciated the support of the players and feels the entire issue is "embarrassing."

"We all like to feel as if we're part of the team," Alicea said. "We help the players and we appreciate what they're trying to do. We thought this issue was resolved a long time ago. To have it come down to the final day is embarrassing. That's about all I can say about it."

Red Sox batting coach Dave Magadan also said he appreciated the players' support.

"It means as much as the money itself," he told ESPN.

Schilling was one of the players involved in the negotiations last fall.

"We had an agreement. We had an agreement in October," Schilling said. "I was one of the five or six players on the phone call. Some of the things they promised they've already taken away. From the players point of view, we all felt the same way. They can't do this. This can't happen."

Schilling said a few things have already been "taken away" by Major League Baseball.

"In October when we were on the phone call, they wanted this trip to happen so badly, and now they've fallen by the wayside time and time again. The things we were adamant about at the time we reiterated time and time again, and it was never an issue."

What things?

"Different personal things that were supposed to happen from an accommodations standpoint. Little things that tend to make trips like this easier. It's been more than one thing. Hopefully, it's just miscommunication, and it will be fixed," Schilling said.

Material from Globe staffers Nick Cafardo and Jackie MacMullan and the Associated Press was used in this report.

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